Thursday, December 20, 2012


A 5th grade class in Rathdrum has been crowned the Idaho Math Cup Champions in 2012 for solving more than 30,000 complex math problems in just one month.

Deanna Watkins’s enrichment class of 17 students at Twin Lakes Elementary School will be awarded in a special assembly at 10:30 a.m. PT on Friday. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, representatives of Think Through Math, and officials from the Lakeland School District will attend the assembly to hand out awards and congratulate students for their hard work. 

“Congratulations to Mrs. Watkins’s class at Twin Lakes Elementary School for taking home the Idaho Math Cup this year! I am so proud of the more than 30,000 students across Idaho who worked hard at school and at home, solving complex math problems during this month-long competition,” said Superintendent Luna. “The Idaho Math Cup is a great way for Idaho students to have fun with mathematics, stay engaged in the classroom, and improve their academic achievement.”

Through the Idaho Math Initiative, the state has contracted with Think Through Math, a web-based, interactive tutoring program, to provide supplemental mathematics to students in grades 3-12 both in the classroom and outside the school day. Think Through Math has an incentive program built in so as students solve more math problems, they earn points and can win prizes or turn their points into donations for charity.

During the month of the November, Idaho hosts the annual Idaho Math Cup competition, where students in 280 schools are encouraged to “do” more math while having fun at the same time. More than 30,000 Idaho students in 1,600 classrooms across the state had the opportunity to participate at school, during afterschool programs, and at home in November.

Mrs. Watkins’s class at Twin Lakes Elementary School solved more complex mathematics problems through Think Through Math than any other class in the state during this contest. Her students completed 1,644 math lessons, consisting of more than 30,000 problems! They spent more than 500 hours solving these math problems. Of those, about 200 hours were spent solving problems at home in the evenings or on the weekends.

“Third time’s a charm,” Watkins said. “My math class was 6th place in 2010, 4th place in 2011, and now finally, Idaho State Math Cup Champs! These kids have worked really hard especially at nights and on weekends. I am really proud of their efforts and persistence. This is a great bunch of kids, and I am really happy for them. Being called a ‘State Champ’ in any area is quite an accomplishment and happens very rarely for most people. These kids are only 10 and 11 and have reached a goal some never attain in a lifetime. I am very proud to be their teacher.”

As the state champion, Mrs. Watkins’s class will take home the coveted Idaho Math Cup trophy, a champion banner, and each student will receive certificates and t-shirts. Think Through Math also will be recognizing two runner-up classes and three additional award winners – Gurus of Giving, Holiday Heroes and Weekend Warrior – with a special class party prize package.

Mrs. Watkins’s class also will be recognized with the Guru of Giving and Evening/Weekend Warriors awards.

Many other Idaho classrooms competed for the Idaho Math Cup across the state and had great success.
  • The first runner up for the Idaho Math Cup was Sherry Martin’s 6th grade class at Webster Elementary in Lewiston.
  • The second runner up for the Idaho Math Cup was Bill Lavin’s 4th grade class at Pepper Ridge Elementary in Meridian.
  • The Holiday Heroes Award, which is given for extraordinary work during the Thanksgiving break from November 21-25, has been awarded to: Amy Peterson’s Math Group at Owyhee Harbor Elementary, Boise; Linda Ehrsam, 3rd grade ALP Ramsey Elementary, Coeur d’Alene; and Karla Morton, 5th grade Cecil D. Andrus Elementary, Boise.
  • The Gurus of Giving Award, which is given to classes that donated the most points to charitable organizations, has been awarded to: Deanna Watkins’ enrichment class, Twin Lakes, Rathdrum; William Lavin’s class at Pepper Ridge Elementary, Meridian; Jill Diamond’s class at Moscow Junior High, Moscow; Sue Peck’s class at Liberty Elementary, Boise.
  • The Evening/Weekend Warrior Award, which is given to classes that worked the most outside of school hours, has been awarded to: Deanna Watkins’ enrichment class, Twin Lakes, Rathdrum; Sherry Martin’s class at Webster Elementary, Lewiston; William Lavin’s class at Pepper Ridge Elementary, Meridian; Amy Peterson’s Math Group at Owyhee Harbor Elementary, Boise; and Angela Troy’s class at Highlands Elementary, Boise.
Learn more about the Idaho Math Initiative or the Idaho Math Cup.

Monday, December 17, 2012


The horrific school shooting in Connecticut has raised many questions about school safety and security. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna sent the following memo to schools and districts this afternoon regarding safety and security measures and the technical assistance the state can offer.
- Melissa M.

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Administrators and Principals,

The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is a stark reminder that no community is immune to random acts of violence.  My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the Sandy Hook incident and their families; I know yours are too.  As school leaders, it is critical that we do all we can to prevent violence in our schools and are prepared to respond.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time our country and our schools have had to address these safety and security concerns. When I took office in 2007, our nation was still reeling from a tragedy that took place in a rural Amish community in Pennsylvania. Therefore, to gain a better understanding of school vulnerabilities and readiness to respond to crisis, we secured funding from the Idaho Legislature to conduct a statewide school safety and security assessment in Fall 2007. This assessment included surveys, site visits, focus groups and community meetings.  Although some results were concerning (lack of training and resources, inability to control access to buildings, outdated / inoperable security equipment), a very promising and not surprising finding emerged: school personnel and communities are highly supportive and understanding of the need to address security and make safety improvements in our schools. 

Based on the results of the assessment, the state worked closely with local school districts to develop recommendations and improve safety and security for all students. Here are just some of the steps we took at that time:
  • Convened a stakeholder group to establish a crisis response template for Idaho schools based on best practices.
  • Delivered statewide training for school personnel on creating and implementing crisis response plans, threat assessments, de-escalation and student health and safety.
  • Worked with vendors to leverage reduced costs for statewide security equipment purchases for Idaho schools.
  • Partnered with the Bureau of Homeland Security to incorporate County Emergency Coordinators in school crisis response planning efforts.
  • Required updated crisis response for districts receiving funding for Safe and Drug Free Schools.
  • Established safety and security recommendations for new school construction.
In 2008, many of you used these recommendations to take a closer look at your school safety procedures and protocols. Now is a good time to work with your communities and address these processes again. Here are some steps I would encourage you to take today in working with your educators, parents and community members.
  • First, I encourage you to reach out to parents and explain what is in place currently to protect students.
  • Second, please review your current crisis response plan and see if updates need to be made. Call the local first responders in your area and other stakeholders to see if they have feedback on the current plan or suggestions for updates that need to be made. In 2008, the state did form the School Safety and Security Stakeholder Group to design a crisis response plan template and supporting documents for Idaho schools to update their crisis response plans based on best practices. The template and documents are all available online at
  • Third, just as important as being prepared to respond to crisis is implementing proactive measures to prevent a crisis.  The State Department of Education has research and guidance on comprehensive, school-wide prevention programs, training documents, policy examples and case law history on a range of school climate issues such as bullying, harassment, drug and alcohol use, truancy, weapons on campus and suicide prevention, which can be accessed online at In addition to this information, Idaho also has recently activated a suicide prevention hotline, staffed by trained professionals and intended for persons at risk for suicide. Please make sure your staff knows about this resource. More information is available online at   
Incidents like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary quickly bring issues of school safety to the forefront; in the aftermath of a tragedy we never want to look back and ask ourselves, “Could we have done more, or should we have done more?”  In light of this, the Idaho State Department of Education will reconvene the School Safety and Security Stakeholder Group in January 2013 to discuss school safety and security and next steps going forward.

Thank you for your work supporting the success and safety of Idaho students.  My staff and I stand ready to assist your efforts. If you have any questions, please contact Matt McCarter at


Tom Luna
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced today that Idaho and 24 other states have committed to advancing recommendations to dramatically transform educator preparation and entry into the profession.

The new CCSSO report, “Our Responsibility, Our Promise: Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession,” was developed by state school chiefs working together to identify key areas they can change to ensure every teacher and principal are ready to prepare our students for college and careers the day they enter the education profession.

As President of CCSSO, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna chaired the state-led task force that prepared the report.

“This is all about improving the craft of teaching. For those who choose teaching as their life’s work and passion, it is incumbent on us to provide the support and opportunities they need to be prepared as soon as they enter the classroom. This all begins with our teacher preparation programs,” Superintendent Luna said. “We recognize that higher expectations for students mean higher expectations for our teachers and principals, so we must do more in our states to ensure the development of effective educators.”

CCSSO unveiled the recommendations on Monday with a panel discussion among Superintendent Luna, Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass, and CCSSO Executive Director Gene Wilhoit. The announcement began with a moment of silence for the victims of the tragic school shooting in Connecticut last week.

The report recommends states focus on licensure, program approval, and data collection, analysis and reporting to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce.

The Task Force is composed of current and former school chiefs with input from the National Governor’s Association and The National Association of State Boards of Education. An expert Advisory Group representing educator preparation, non-traditional programs, teacher unions and other organizations involved in the preparation of teachers and principals provided input on the Task Force’s recommendations.

Superintendent Luna will bring these recommendations to the Idaho State Board of Education for review and approval. The State Board of Education and the deans of the Colleges of Education in Idaho received copies of the preliminary report.

The following are statements of support the Idaho State Department of Education has received for advancing the recommendations in the Our Responsibility, Our Promise report in Idaho:

Dr. Cori Mantle-Bromley, Dean of the University of Idaho College of Education: “The University of Idaho’s College of Education fully supports the Task Force Report and its recommendations. We believe that our program direction aligns with the recommendations and can only be strengthened with increased availability of state data and with rigorous standards for all educator preparation programs. We are eager to participate in the implementation of recommendations.”

Marty Schimpf, Provost of Boise State University: “Boise State fully embraces the principles of the CCSSO Task Force Report, which are to produce teachers who have deep content knowledge and how to teach it and principals with the skills required to lead transformation in their schools. Our new IDoTeach program for preparing the next generation of secondary education math and science teachers is only a first step in renewed efforts at Boise State to reform programs for teacher preparation, and to develop new programs in educational leadership.” 

Diane Boothe, President of the Idaho Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IAACTE): “On behalf of the Idaho public/private deans and directors, we enthusiastically endorse the CCSSO initiatives and recommendations, and look forward to actively participating and facilitating improved teacher preparation in Idaho.”

Learn more about this state-led effort, including a complete list of the members of the Task Force and quotes of support from outside organizations.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


The window to complete applications for state scholarships is now open, and students can access the application on the Idaho State Board of Education’s website. The deadline for completing the online application for state scholarships is February 15, 2013

Through the Office of the State Board of Education, the state provides several scholarship opportunities to Idaho students, including:
  • Governor’s Cup Scholarship
  • Robert R. Lee Promise “A”
  • Robert R. Lee Promise “B”
  • Opportunity Scholarship
  • Tschudy Family Scholarship
“Financial aid opens the door to postsecondary education for many Idaho students,” said Jessica Piper, Scholarship Program Manager for the Idaho State Board of Education. “These programs provide students with an opportunity to help meet the costs of going on after high school and obtaining a higher education degree or certificate.”

Students can also access the application for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) via the Board’s Scholarship web page.

Learn more about each scholarship, including eligibility requirements and deadlines.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


The most recent Nation’s Report Card comparing student achievement across the country shows that Idaho’s Hispanic students are making more progress in vocabulary than students in any other state.

The National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, results released today analyzed vocabulary skills tested in 2009 and 2011. The results are important because the tests show students who do well on vocabulary also perform well on reading comprehension.

According to the report released today, all Idaho students in grades 4 and 8 continue to score above the national average.

The scores among Idaho’s Hispanic students in 8th grade increased significantly from 2009 to 2011. Across the country, Hispanic students improved their vocabulary scores in 8th grade and narrowed the achievement gap, but Idaho’s Hispanic students showed the largest gain of 13 percentage points – more than any other state in the nation.

“This is excellent news for the students in our state. We know we have an achievement gap and have been working to eliminate it, not just close it. We still have a lot of work to do, but this is a positive step in the right direction,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. Superintendent Luna currently serves on the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP testing across the country.

“We are thrilled to see all the hard work that the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs and the Idaho Department of Education has done is starting to show closure in the academic achievement gap with our Hispanic students,” said Margie Gonzalez, the Executive Director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. “We applaud all of the schools who are implementing strong initiatives to address the achievement gaps.”

Here is a summary of how Idaho students compare to students across the country on the NAEP Vocabulary:
  • In Grade 4, all Idaho students scored an average 221 in 2011 compared to 220 in 2009. The national average remained the same at 217.
  • In Grade 4, Idaho Hispanic students scored an average 201 in 2011 compared to 196 in 2009. Nationally, Hispanic students scored 200 in 2011 compared to 198 in 2009.
  • In Grade 8, all Idaho students scored an average 270 in 2011 compared to 268 in 2009. The national average stayed the same at 263.
  • In Grade 8, Idaho Hispanic students scored an average 251 in 2011 compared to 238 in 2009. Nationally, Hispanic students scored 247 in 2011 compared to 245 in 2009.
  • Idaho was one of 11 states to administer NAEP in Grade 12 in 2009. In that year, Idaho students scored 300 on vocabulary skills compared to the national average of 294.
Check out NAEP’s website for more information on scores in Idaho and across the country.


Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna attended a school assembly at Canfield Middle School in Coeur d’Alene this morning to celebrate the great strides they have made in student achievement.

After all, the school has met Adequate Yearly Progress and is a Four-Star School. But he was there for another reason too…

In the middle of the assembly, Superintendent Luna surprised the faculty, staff and students by naming one of their teachers as the 2013 Idaho Teacher of the Year!

Katie Pemberton, a mathematics teacher at Canfield Middle, has been selected as the 2013 Idaho Teacher of the Year!

Katie Pemberton accepts the $1,000 check from Superintendent Luna.
She has taught for seven years and also works as an adjunct professor at Lewis-Clark State College. In 2011, she won the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Now, as Idaho Teacher of the Year, she will receive $1,000 from the Idaho State Department of Education, an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and go on to represent Idaho as a nominee for the National Teacher of the Year.

“Katie Pemberton will be a great representative of Idaho and the talented teachers we have across Idaho as our state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year,” Superintendent Luna said. “Despite being young in her career, Pemberton has stood out as an excellent teacher. She doesn’t shy away from working with at-risk students and is always looking for new, innovative strategies to help every child learn. For these reasons and more, Katie Pemberton was selected as Idaho’s Teacher of the Year.”

Nick Lilyquist, Principal of Canfield Middle and one of the few who was privy to the secret before the assembly, called Pemberton the “ultimate educator.”

“She arrives at school every day with a positive attitude and determined to help all her students succeed in mathematics,” he said.

The Idaho Teacher of the Year program began in 1959 and has become one of the most prestigious honors in the state for teachers. The program focuses public attention on excellence in teaching that has a real impact on the students of Idaho.

Every year, school districts and charter schools across Idaho have the opportunity to nominate one teacher for the Idaho Teacher of the Year. A state selection committee representing teachers, education leaders, parents and legislators from across the state select the Idaho Teacher of the Year from among the nominations.

Pemberton was selected as the Coeur d’Alene School District Teacher of the Year before becoming Idaho’s Teacher of the Year.

In her application, Pemberton said as Idaho’s Teacher of the Year, she would focus on increasing the use of technology in the classroom to improve student achievement and working to build more respect for the teaching profession by encouraging more ambitious individuals to go into teaching.

“This is the most amazing profession,” Pemberton said as she accepted the award. She looked at her students and continued, “You inspire me each and every day. It’s an honor to collaborate with my colleagues. We work with other teachers throughout Coeur d'Alene and the state to bring new and innovative ideas to our students.”

After the assembly, she went right back to her classroom and started teaching.

Katie Pemberton invited Superintendent Luna to sit in on her classroom after the schoolwide assembly announcing her as the 2013 Idaho Teacher of the Year.